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Market Pressures Force Polartec to Relocate Textile Plant

The Lawrence, Massachusetts-based Polartec, made famous when its then owner continued paying workers after a blaze razed the factory in 1995, said it’s moving its operations out of the state.

Polartec plans to move its manufacturing to plants in Hudson, New Hampshire and Tennessee, the Boston Globe reported. The company acquired rival Cleveland, Tennessee-based United Knitting in November. No closing date for the Lawrence plant has yet been disclosed but operations are expected to wind down over the next few years.

The company, which produces its specialty Polartec fabric for brands like Patagonia, The North Face and L.L. Bean, said the decision came as a result of increased market pressure and grossly underused space in its facility.

“In its most productive year, the company has only been able to use 25 percent of its Lawrence facility,” Polartec said in a statement.

The mill currently employs as many as 300 full-time and seasonal workers, all of whom are expected to lose their jobs.

Aaron Feuerstein, the mill’s former owner credited with his post-fire generosity to workers when Polartec was still called Malden Mills, said the decision was “a disgrace.”

“All those jobs are lost, after we dedicated ourselves to keeping them,” Feuerstein told the Boston Globe. “We considered our workers stakeholders, a part of the factory. They consider workers just a pair of hands. You can get a pair of hands in many places.”

After the fire, Feuerstein and the company racked up $140 million in debt to get the factory rebuilt, which ultimately led to three bankruptcies before Versa Capital Management bought the company in 2007 and changed the name to Polartec.

Polartec said it plans to work closely with Lawrence and Massachusetts state officials to transition the jobs in the coming years.